Heart Disease and Stress
Miller and Blackwell state, “Though people have long believed that certain thoughts and feelings are toxic for their health, only in the past 30 years has convincing evidence accumulated to support this view… specific cognitive and emotional processes do contribute to the development and progression of medical illness,” (Miller & Blackwell, 2006, p. 269). Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Through many experiments, research has shown that stress increases the health concerns directly related to heart disease. Stress is a part of everyday life, yet individuals perceive and process stress differently.
Stress is defined as, “the process by which we perceive and respond to certain events, called stressors, that we appraise as threatening or challenging,” (Myers, 2013, p. 487). When stressors arise in people’s lives, the response can be positive and pose a challenge and make people more focused. If the stressor is thought to be a threat or negative, the person could become more distracted and stressed. From hurricanes and earthquakes, to driving down the street and being cut off, stressors can be presented in many different ways and fall into one of three categories. The three main categories are, catastrophes, significant life changes and daily hassles, but all play a vital role (Myers, 2013).
When the body processes stress, it is both a physiological and psychological process. Outside sources activate the immune response of inflammation, which if persistent, studies have shown develops symptoms of depression and progression into cardiac disease. Walter Cannon (1929) observed stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine from the adrenal glands being triggered or alerted by stressful or emotional events. This, in turn, increases heart rate and respiration, increasing blood flow from internal organs to skeletal muscles. Further research conducted for forty years by a Canadian scientist named Hans Selye extended what was confirmed by Cannon. General adaptation syndrome (GAS) was Selye’s three-phase process (alarm, resistance, exhaustion) that proposed the body’s response to stress (Myers, 2013). Inflammation is normally known as the body’s automatic response to foreign viruses and bacteria. Evidence shows that people with chronic stress may have significantly increased concentrations of inflammatory molecules such asinterleukin-6 (IL-6), a cytokine that plays an important role in the inflation process, and C-reactive protein (CRP), which is produced in the liver in response to the IL-6 (Miller & Blackwell, 2006). When the Sympathetic fibers from the brain activate both primary (bone marrow and thymus) and secondary (spleen and lymph nodes), they release a wide variety of substances that influence the immune response by binding to receptors on the white blood cells. Not all types of cells have the same amount of receptors, thus increaseing of certain cells and...